When should formal learning start?

11th July 2008 at 01:00
I was concerned to read in The TES that the Government is planning to suspend the part of its early years curriculum that would have required five-year-olds to be able to write their own names, form simple sentences and use phonics to write more complex words

I was concerned to read in The TES that the Government is planning to suspend the part of its early years curriculum that would have required five-year-olds to be able to write their own names, form simple sentences and use phonics to write more complex words.

It is my experience, and that of countless others, that children in reception and even earlier can use phonics readily and enjoyably. Many research studies back this up. Indeed, there is evidence that children who learn their letter sounds before they start reception maintain a reading advantage throughout primary school. Moreover, learning the basics of phonics does not have to involve "formalised learning", as the early years lobby protests. It can be done through activity and songs.

This Government revision is a response to the views of a small but vociferous lobby, and it runs counter to the best interests and wishes of parents and the experience of many teachers. It will undermine children's achievement, and it throws into question this Government's commitment to raising standards.

Christopher Jolly, Publisher of Jolly Phonics, Chigwell, Essex.

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